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By Cosmas Omegoh
Children that are not eating pepper-soup this wet season risk infections, health experts have warned.
They declared that well-prepared pepper-soup contains wholesome elements capable of fighting off common health problems prevalent in this rainy season.
Usually at this time of the year, the rains are heavy. From Warri to Wurno, from Uyo to Oyo, the rains are pounding the earth in thick sheets. The downpours are increasingly throwing up seasonal health concerns; the roads, streets and neighbourhoods are all wet with floodwaters.
Parents and medical experts affirm that now is the time that most children – because of their tender ages – are prone to several illnesses. Even older persons are not spared of the season’s health risks. Most people are coming down with various ailments as they continue to fight the weather conditions.
This indeed is one season that medical experts want parents to be wary about. Recently, Dr Celestine Chukwunenye, told the public to give their children pepper-soup to keep them healthy, contending that such strong foods are wholesome because they contain ingredients that support the immune system.
Dr Chukwunenye, who is the President and Chief Medical Director, Optimal Specialist Hospitals, Surulere, Lagos, said: “In various cultures, there are what people call healthy foods. Pepper-soup is one such food in which a lot of fresh things are used: fresh fish, fresh pepper, fresh vegetables and all that.
“These strong foods can help to fight infections. These are foods that are very rich, and can help the body body’s immune system to be very agile in fighting off viruses and other microorganisms that infect humans. Around this time, it is advisable to prepare such delicacies, at least weekly, so that the children can enjoy them and stay healthy.”
Corroborating the assertion, Nkem Ikeke, in his works, “How to survive the rainy season without falling sick,” recommended hot foods, mostly tea and pepper-soup to fight common colds.
“A hot cup of tea or coffee can help prevent cold. It helps keep the body warm. Also consider a hot bowl of pepper soup,” he noted.”
Even a research conducted by the Self-Access Learning Centre, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, is clearer on this. “Consuming a bowl of hot soup is healthy, especially during the monsoon (wet) months. Its temperature will give your body some warmth; that will help you withstand rain and the cold monsoon (wet) breeze longer.
“For people soaked in rainwater, the soup provides instant relief since its warm base clears up phlegm in the nasal cavities and general throat area. It also cleanses your body as it clears off bacteria and waste products in the body’s excretory system.”
In the light of heavy flooding in Lagos, Dr Chukwunenye warned residents to be extra vigilant. “There is an increased incidence of infections about this time of the year,” he noted. “This is so because the rainy season is here and of course we don’t have good environmental protection services.
“A lot of diseases tend to have their peak during this time of the year. So, there is a hike in infective conditions now. Because of the rains, water dumps have emerged here and there. All over the place, we have gutters bursting at their seams with dirt, excavations of the soil, clogged canals, refuse bins that are not promptly evacuated are conducive environments for the breeding of mosquitoes which carry the virus that causes malaria.
“Right now, we have a high rate of transmission of malaria, especially the very difficult strains. These very difficult strains are resistant to multi drugs. So we have a lot more people coming down with malaria.
“The other thing is that there is a lot of contamination of the underground water at this time of the year, especially here in Lagos. This is because of blocked drainages and flooding which affect the boreholes and deep waters that are our water sources. If this water is not well treated before getting into our homes and before being used, it might become a source of infections. So there is an upsurge in infections now.
“Then of course the cold weather is here with us. This also increases the viruses that cause common cold and conditions that cause diseases like asthma which are rampant about this time.”
The medical professional asserted that children are a lot more disposed to infections, and warned parents to pay particular attention to them.
“All the factors we earlier mentioned combine to put children down. We should not forget that their immune system is not fully developed to face the challenges in the environment. So, they tend to go down faster than the adults. The immune system against malaria, for instance, in a child, is not as strong as that in an adult which has become stronger over the years.
“So it is understandable why a child falls ill faster and more severely than adults. It is the same thing with all these viruses that fight the body. Children have less immunity than adults.
“Then in terms of nutrition, children are dependent on what an adult gives them. Whereas an adult can say ‘oh, my body needs this or that’ and can easily purchase them and eat, the child cannot do that. He will only rely on what his parents give him to eat. So, he will not easily respond to his body’s physiological demands. These are the issues that make children more prone to infections.”
For families to survive the season without blemish, Dr Chukwunenye advised parents to be a lot more proactive, insisting that they had some weighty jobs to do.
“At a time like this, parents need to control the environment of the home as much as possible. If it is raining, they should try as much as possible to close the doors and windows. The children should be given thicker clothes such as sweaters to wear so that they would be warm. If they are sleeping in the night, their rooms must be kept warm to prevent them from catching cold in the night. They should be kept away as much as possible from mosquitoes by ensuring that they sleep in mosquito-treated nets.
“Then, parents need to pay special attention to their children’s nutrition. During this period, children should be given enough vitamins and minerals. It is important for parents to know that children need plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. It is not only the adults that need such foods. Children should consume enough proteins and carbohydrates as well as fats and oils. They should be given balanced diet in order to stay healthy.”
He also warned parents to help their children avoid contaminated water at home and everywhere, insisting that proper attention must be paid to the type of water they drink and bathe with.
“This is a very important time for parents to add some chlorine to the water they consume at home. There are various forms of chlorine that can be used in the water – just follow the directives of the manufacturers. For instance, they might say add a capful to 25 litres of water. If the water is bad – may be coloured or has particles – they can use up to two capfuls in order to reduce the viral load.
“That is highly recommended this season because there are high incidences of the underground water being contaminated, unlike in the dry season when water does not percolate deep enough into the soil down to the wells and boreholes. It used to be less likely during the dry season than now when floodwater has brought out all manner of things and poured them all into the wells and various water sources,” he added.